Guest Review – Straighten Out – Hope and Anchor 240317

Black Friday Part 1…

Sadly EiTC had to miss the annual pilgrimage to the Hope and Anchor for the afternoon mass in black...

Fortunately,  Little Lil was there to egg on Bag Lady to big it up...

Straighten Out – Hope and Anchor Friday 24th March 2017

It was late morning when I slipped my little feet into my little DM’s and took a little train ride to see a little gig in a tiny basement. It was the pre-Stranglers meet up to witness lil’ ol’ Straighten Out at the mighty Hope and Anchor (well, something in this little review had to add a bit of stature). A little afternoon out? Oh no, this was to exceed expectations.

The pub took a while to fill up with people in black but eventually the bar was three deep in dark figures. The thud of a sound check penetrated the floorboards as greetings were called out and old acquaintances re-established. Without announcement the doors downstairs were opened. A homing instinct called to those in black who turned and obediently filed down in an orderly queue. Flippin’ heck, Lil, the place was rammed to the rafters. What does a little ‘un have to do to find a breathing space in here? Scuba gear attached and sauna towel adjusted, it was once more into the fray with the band emerging from the crowd.

Longships into The Raven, ah, a proper start. Are we going to be a better audience than Glasgow? Of course we are. Dead Loss Angeles and Ice. Does anyone know what album they’re playing? Maybe cracks are appearing in our superiority when the audience consensus is that Rattus is having an airing… I am delighted, although after Bordello and ND not surprised, to hear Shah Shah A Go Go, now that’s a treat. What’s up next? An omission and an addition. Bear Cage and a chance to chant along. The voice changer is employed through Meninblack and later in JLNOE (or is this Shaggy’s real off-stage voice?). As we are in MiB territory I should mention my view of new drummer, Casey’s set up meant his head appeared to be a cymbal in an alien way. Legs, torso, rather attractive biceps and a cymbal up top. It’s a relief after nearly two hours to see him unfold from behind the kit and find that he is from our planet. Welcome.

After a little flirtation into Gospel territory, SO move on to the very best of La Folie – Man, Tramp, Family and Everybody. I know I’m listing (and that is not referring to my heading to starboard with my wonky dancing to Who Wants the World nor to an impeccable Toiler) but this was a set list written for fans and that marks this gig out. Plus each track was belted out, not even slowing when Phil burst a string. Add again to that the authentic sound with Mick’s keyboards and you have a room of hot, happy people. Shaggy says from the stage that they read the various forums, take note of what fans want to hear and try to provide. For any dry trees seeking water, this is the place to be.

The appreciation of the audience was there throughout but they took time to make noisy expression. It was after all mid Friday afternoon and the creation of a rowdy late night atmosphere takes some working. In the well-crafted set the arrival of Tank was perfectly timed, the audience were hungry for it. We were like children who have gorged on the party buffet of rich and rare Stranglers tracks, thinking it was time to head out for a go on the swings, only to be presented with ice cream sundaes. There’s pudding too! Oh yes, we’ve got room! Sleazy followed (the dancing rather sedate this afternoon), SBC and Heroes. The whipped cream on top was added with a magnificent seven and a half minutes of Sewer. Our appetites were satisfied. The temperature had soared. The smiles had grown. The cheers had risen.

Straighten Out had taken bigger risks with the set than The Stranglers would later in the evening. There is not the pressure to keep in the general crowd pleaser tracks that the casual attendee expects at a Stranglers gig, giving SO more freedom to roam through the albums for gems. For the Stranglers themselves this freedom might be considered insane. It is good to see SO go large with the set list. It pays off, big time. Classic.

Over…

Words: Guildford Lil.

Photos: Gary Bainbridge.

Coming Soon to a town near you...
Black Friday Part 2...
and now
Black Friday Part 3!

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